3 steps to increase event attendance with engagement campaigns

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The media industry is no stranger to events. While a TON of prep work goes into putting on the event itself, the success of any great event is judged largely on the attendance rate.

But driving attendance shouldn't be something you only worry about in the few weeks leading up to the event. Running a variety of engagement campaigns throughout the year can help you develop a database of interested consumers to target as each event gets closer.

Support every event on your calendar by working with your event department to create a year-long strategy for driving attendance to every event you host.

Here are three steps to get you started:

1. Grow Your Targeted Database
Throughout the year, you should run promotions to not only grow your email database, but also to learn more about your consumers to target the right people for the right event.

Specific promotions and interactive content can tell you a lot about your consumer. Someone who takes a "What Kind of Bride are You?" quiz in December may be a perfect candidate to email about your bridal show that following May. A user who enters a sweepstakes for a new deck in April, may be ideal for contacting about your September home show.

For the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the July bridal show is one of its biggest events of the year. While the staff does a lot of marketing in the months leading up to it, they run bridal promotions throughout the entire year to identify likely attendees – "Cutest Couple" in January, "Bride-to-be Cake Dive" in April and "Dream Wedding" in May.

2. Identify Interested Consumers
As the event gets closer, it's time to identify your target audience. You'll want to develop promotions that can narrow down people who are interested in your event, available during the event's time frame, and able to reach the destination.

Sweepstakes can be the perfect way to identify your most interested audience. But make sure you include an email opt-in on the registration page. Once users sign-up for more information, you'll have a specific list of interested consumers to email as the event gets closer. Email is the #1 driver of digital conversions, so leverage that list of hot leads.

This sweepstakes from the San Diego Union-Tribune gave away four tickets to the Harvest Festival and $200 that were only redeemable at the event. This event-specific prize means that someone who entered was definitely someone interested in attending. Plus, more than 1,100 people signed-up to learn more about the event.


3. Drum-Up Excitement
While you're already emailing your targeted list of interested users, it's important to build awareness and create a buzz about the upcoming event within your community.

A quiz is optimized for sharing on social media making it ideal for spreading awareness about the event. Additionally, you can utilize images of past events within the quiz questions and answers, include links to the event throughout the quiz, and leverage the outcome page to include an offer or discount on purchasing tickets.

This "What Fair Food Are You?" quiz for the Coastal Carolina Fair collected some valuable data (user's favorite attractions, if people would attend as families, couples, or with friends). They also included an opt-in for the event to give them a list of hot leads to email about heading to the fair.




Photo contests are another great way to promote your event once it's closer. People love to share photos and are passionate about encouraging their friends and family to vote for them. This leads to lots of participation and tons of exposure for your event.

Looking for a way to spread awareness about the Pepsi Powerfest, a major multi-artist concert, the sponsor reached out to WCKX for help with promotion. The station developed the Pepsi Selfie photo contest that not only produced a major branding opportunity for the event, but also landed $10,000 in sponsorship revenue for WCKX.



The biggest takeaway here is that driving attendance shouldn't just be a last-minute idea. A year-long strategy dedicated to growing your targeted database will ensure that you can deliver qualified leads for yourself and advertisers as the event gets closer. Work with your events department to develop year-long strategies that will reinforce every event on your calendar.

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or matt@secondstreet.com.

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